Football analyst and Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy says his parents instilled in him the importance of faith, although he didn't take their Scripture-filled lessons seriously until he was a player in the NFL.
"My mom was a Sunday School teacher. And she always talked about, 'Hey, no matter what you do in life, you've got to put the Lord first, you've got to create that time for the Lord. You've got to do things for Him.' And I heard it when I was a kid, but it didn't really register," Dungy told host Tauren Wells in a new edition of The High Note podcast. "... My mom was telling me this the whole time, but it's going in one ear and out the other."
Dungy, who won a Super Bowl as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and currently works as a football analyst for NBC Sports, is one of the most well-known Christians in all of sports.
Yet he said he didn't take his faith seriously while becoming a standout in high school or while playing quarterback at the University of Minnesota. It wasn't until he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he played defensive back in the late 1970s, that he underwent a spiritual transformation under the guidance of Christian teammates and the leadership of Pittsburgh head coach Chuck Noll.
"I was 21 years old … and the first thing he said to us, he said, 'Men, I want to welcome you to the National Football League. You're now going to get paid to play football. So that makes it your profession. But don't make football your life. If you make football your whole life, you're gonna be disappointed.' And I was like, 'Wow, are you kidding me?' Well, up to this point, it kind of [had] been my whole life."
Soon, Dungy began hanging out with Christian teammates. There were about 20 "really, really strong, committed Christian guys on that team," he said.
"And they invited me to Bible studies, and they invited me to chapel, and for the first time, I really started reading the Bible, trying to get out of it what those guys got out of it," he said.
Dungy said the situation reminded him of his mom's favorite verse, Matthew 16:26: "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"
"That's what these guys we're trying to get through to my head," Dungy said. "... You've got to have eternity in mind. You can't just focus on the sport. And I learned that as a 21-year-old, and that's when I first started really carving out that time, going to chapels, going to players' Bible studies, and really trying to grow in my faith."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Mitchell Leff/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.